Walking with her beagle on a leash down a gravel path, Antonia Robertson was one of about 100 people who showed up Friday afternoon to check out the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria.
The trail, which winds around Carpinteria High School and through a patchwork of public and private easements, seemed to please the many locals gathered to celebrate its reopening to the public after decades of work.
“It’s just fabulous,” Robertson said while walking toward the foothills.
Many of the Carpinteria residents at the event lamented having to drive to Montecito to get to trail access to the foothills.
Robertson lives right on the dividing line between Montecito and Carpinteria and shared the same frustrations.
“You look up at these hills and think that you should have access, but it hasn’t been there,” she said.
As of Friday, though, all of that changed.
About 150 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting at the trailhead, located at the end of Sterling Avenue and Meadow View Lane, at the north end of Carpinteria’s Franklin Park.
The original trail dates back to 1913, when the U.S. Forest Service built a trail from the Carpinteria Valley to the ridge of the Santa Ynez Mountains, giving hikers a direct route to the Santa Ynez River.
The trail was closed in the 1930s after a fire was attributed to picnickers there, and in the 1970s, ranchers who owned the land the trail crossed became concerned about the transmission of avocado root rot on the feet of hikers and horses.
But efforts to reopen the trail have been in the works as landowners slowly granted easements across their properties, including private owners as well as public entities such as the Carpinteria Unified School District.
One group that spearheaded the efforts to get the trail reopened was the Friends of the Franklin Trail, which worked to fundraise to get the design, permitting and construction of the trail under way.
The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, with its history of helping purchase the Carpinteria Bluffs and restore the Salt Marshes in the area, was also key to opening up the trail.
A host of other agencies — including the County of Santa Barbara, the City of Carpinteria, Caltrans, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council and the Montecito Trails Foundation — were also involved.
Friday’s event celebrated the first phase of the trail opening, which is a 2.25-mile segment. That part of the trail has been designated by the county as multiple use, meaning it’s available to hikers, bike riders and equestrians.
The trail will be closed to horses and bikes until January, however, to allow for rainfall and foot traffic to help compact the loose trail tread.
The second phase involves working with the owner of Rancho Monte Alegre and the forest service to see the trail opened across the remaining five miles to the peak of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Once that is done, the trail will connect to East Camino Cielo and to the existing backcountry trail system along the Santa Ynez River.
County Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Carpinteria Mayor Brad Stein, Carpinteria Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Cindy Abbott, and Friends of the Franklin Trail co-chairs Jane Murray and Bud Gerard all spoke at the event.
Michael Feeney, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, said the project turned out to be much more complicated, time-consuming and expensive than anyone anticipated because a 65-foot pedestrian bridge across the creek needed to be constructed, as well as fencing and retaining walls.
An informational kiosk was also put up to orient trail users.
Earlier in the presentation, county parks planner Claude Garciacelay said opening the trail had been a vision for many years. But Friday proved the perfect day for hikers to enjoy the clear view of the ocean.
“On a day like today … it’s a spectacular trail,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.